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How to work with Yi in times of crisis

How to work with Yi in times of crisis

I think I get the most sheer, uncomplicated delight from working with people who have time and space to explore their lives with Yi: mulling over decisions, inviting responses that explode preconceived ideas, asking the huge questions about purpose and meaning that can stay with you for a lifetime. These are good times to get to know the oracle and get some inkling of the extent of its possibilities (and yours).

But there are times when this kind of spacious exploration isn’t possible. I don’t mean when you have to concentrate on a particular decision, and ask systematic ‘sets’ of questions about your options, but those time when you’re swept along by events as if by a wave, coming up for air briefly before being seized again by the undertow. Meltdown time: collapsing support structures, a demented mix of impossible decisions and an onslaught of stuff where you can’t see any choices at all.

This is Change in the raw, a natural time to draw on your connection with Yi for guidance and companionship – but a hugely difficult time to find the mental/emotional space for it. Here are a few suggestions that might help.

  • Spend whatever time and energy you can find for readings on a small number of them. Don’t go hexagram-hopping: readings you’re not sure about can easily become just one more source of stress.
  • Ask about what you can do, or how you can be. If you can, resist the temptation to ask about how things will work out in the end. Typically there are so many ‘if’s involved that the answer to such questions will be bewilderingly complex. Asking for guidance is far more help to you now, and makes you feel much more supported.
  • As a rule, try to work with one reading at a time, so you can digest it and act on it before moving on to the next. Avoid piling on more related readings; especially, beware piling ‘ifs’ on ‘ifs’. (‘If I did x, and then I chose y, what should I do about z?’)

Sometimes crisis leads to a question-frenzy; sometimes it means a kind of ‘in the headlights’ sensation when you can’t think of anything to ask that would help. What you need is something between the two: just enough so that you always have something from Yi in the back of your mind.

To begin with, it’s always good to ask for overall guidance – a simple ‘Help!’ kind of reading, or ‘How can I live through all this?’ That’s one to carry with you (maybe literally, by writing a few key words on something pocket-sized) and keep in mind.

Beyond that, you might want to ask about your most immediate next step, instead of trying to make an all-encompassing plan – how best to handle today’s challenge, or what if you take a particular course. Or – if available choices are few and far between, and challenges don’t arrive on schedule – you might get into the routine of asking for advice for the week ahead. That’s always a good way to keep in touch without the unneeded pressure of having to think up the ‘right’ question to ask.

One final thought – Yi’s an extraordinary companion and source of guidance, and it works well together with human expertise, and ordinary human listening and support. It doesn’t substitute for them, though.

I hope this is helpful. Any thoughts or comments on what you find works, and what doesn’t?

white water kayaking


4 responses to How to work with Yi in times of crisis

  1. This is very interesting. When I have been confronted with a crisis situation (for myself) I have often seen this reflected in the Yi where the answer will contain many changing lines and resultant hexagrams (in the process I use) – this tells me right off the bat that it is a ver volitile situation – that is contains many hidden dynamics – that is would involve a GREAT DEAL of work on self-cultivation on my part or the other involved – it is implying that much change needs to be managed over quite a period of time perpahs – or, on the other hand – there are times when I recieved one singular hexagram decisive and final that I could choose to act in accord with or (to my loss) ignore. I fact I had a PRIME example of that 4 years ago and in my “self-will” I went against the hexagram and it brought me into a situation of great personal pain and loss of health. My goodness!!!
    – Glen

  2. I find that in times of crisis, it is hard to see what the situation really is, and that it is tempting to fill in the blanks. This lack of clarity, and especially the inaccurately filling in the blanks (with horror scenarios), is a major source of stress. Therefore, I find that a good question is: What is my situation? Or some variants: What is really going on? What is the situation for the other person?

    This usually helps me to clear things up, and it becomes possible to think of a course of action, or no action, if that is appropriate. The advice contained in the Yijing texts of the reading often helps with that.

    If I still have difficulty deciding what to do, I proceed asking the Yi for guidance with that.

  3. I agree Ewald: I do something very similar. I know that one reads often that you need to be very specific about questions. But I have found, like you, that I do not even want to second-guess at those times when my judgment is unsound. So I so as you with the quesions that give me orientation first, and then I can be more specific. In fact, I have gone so far at time to ask no question at all – knowing I don’t know where to begin, and in this I feel I have let the YiJing tell me what I most need to hear at the time and in the circumstances that is taking up the center of my concerns. – Glen

  4. These are good points, thank you. I was thinking of situations where ‘what’s going on’ is arriving at your doorstep (as a final demand for payment, for instance). But there are definitely times when the first question to ask is basically, ‘Where am I?’

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